11 Issues Impacting Your Preaching
When I first started preaching, I had one and only one thought on Sunday mornings:
"Don't forget what you want to say."
I walked around like I was carrying a cup of coffee that was just a little too full, afraid if someone bumped me, my sermon may spill out of my mind and onto the floor. I'm more relaxed now, yet still aware of how difficult preaching well truly is.
There are so many ways a sermon can go wrong. I know God's Word never returns void and I'm thankful that the caliber of God's work isn't determined by the quality of my preaching. Personally, I just never want that to be an excuse for phoning in a crappy sermon.
The longer I preach, the more aware I am of just how many issues impact my preaching. I can study, pray, and prepare hard and still crash and burn on Sunday - I know because I've done it. Preparation is paramount, but there are other factors in play.
Here are 11 issues that impact the preacher in no particular order...
1. How much sleep you got the night before, even the week prior.
Your ability to think is drastically impacted by how rested you are. If you're tired and groggy, you may find it more difficult to focus and hold thoughts.
2. What you ate the day before.
Nothing like being in the pulpit when your stomach starts to turn. All you can think is, "Maybe that second Nachos BelGrande was a bad idea last night." Um, maybe Taco Bell was a bad idea in general... I've grown more careful of what I eat on Saturdays because I don't want to be thinking about how awful I feel when I'm trying focus on preaching faithfully.
3. Clothes you wear.
I care about the way I present myself as a preacher. I don't want to be a distraction. Some preachers are a distraction because they try too hard, and some because they don't try hard enough. Know your context and dress in a way that won't distract.
4. Unresolved relational issues.
You can't be "right" with God and "wrong" with people. A fight with your spouse, discord with a staff member, or that tension your trying to ignore will not serve you as a preacher. As far as it depends on us, we should take our pulpits each week at peace with the people around us.
5. Hiding unconfessed sin.
If you're hiding sin, Preacher, you're hurting your church. You're not fooling God and God will not be mocked. It's going to come out. You can come to God, or God will come to you. Find a trusted brother. Get alone with your wife. Do what it takes to drag it into the light.
6. Quality of time spent in pastoral care.
Pastoral care can be the best preparation for preaching. Time spent with people puts faces to the issues your sermon will address. Your application will be more helpful because you better know people's doubts, fears, struggles, and areas of sin. On the contrary, if the only people you spend time with are the authors of your books who've been dead for decades, you may miss the hearts of your listeners.
7. Thoughtful execution of Sunday routine.
If your heart and mind are scattered prior to preaching, your sermon will be also. You need a routine you fight to protect. Prayer, meditation, review of your notes. Your routine will look different than mine, but we need to properly prepare the morning of.
8. How you spends Saturday night.
You may be different, but I need to get to bed early. I don't prefer to go out on Saturday nights, I prefer to stay in. Maybe you're the opposite and going out with friends, taking a date night, or enjoying some other event, might be exactly what you need. Either way, how we spend Saturday night, impacts how we feel Sunday morning.
9. Unexpected distractions in the room.
The crying baby. The cell phone that rings. The person who comes to church 40 minutes late and still thinks it's a good idea to walk down the center aisle to sit right in front of you in the first row. All these issues and more can distract and derail the work of preaching.
In a perfect world, the sermon would be the only thing on the preachers mind each Sunday. Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world, though a perfect world would have no need for a preacher, so... My point is, what's on your shoulders will influence the sermon.
11. Size of the audience.
Preaching to 10 people is different than preaching to 100. Preaching to 100 is different than preaching to 1000 (I'm guessing this is true, though I can't validate it personally, having never preached to that many people at once). I've personally felt more comfortable the larger our church has grown. Again, you may be different, but what's true is that the size of your audience will impact how you preach.
Now, some of these issues can be controlled, but many of them cannot. The longer we preach the more adept we become at dealing with them.
If you're not a preacher, but know one, pray for them, encourage them, and for goodness sake, don't come in late and sit in the front row:-)
If you are a preacher, control what you can and release want you can't. Even on your worst day, God is at His best. Don't let God's power and faithfulness serve as an excuse for mediocre preaching, but don't act like the sky is falling just because you bombed a sermon. Trust God and try harder.